Saturday, December 24, 2011

Ash Lawn-Highland Charlottesville, Virginia

The front entry to Ash Lawn-Highland. This is a later addition
to the house and is known as the Massey House.

James Monroe as painted by Samuel
Morse circa 1819. The painting hangs
in the White House
Owned and operated by the College of William and Mary, Ash Lawn-Highland was the home of James Monroe the fifth President of the United States. Monroe purchased the estate in 1793 at the suggestion of his friend and near by resident Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson helped select the site and provided gardeners to help start the orchards. The Monroes moved to Highland*, as the estate was then known, in November 1799. Guests to the home included another President and his wife, James and Dolly Madison. A combination of poor health and financial difficulties forced Monroe to sell Highland in 1826.

Monroe is perhaps one of the more under appreciated of Presidents. His resume is extensive including being a U.S. Senator, he served as a minister to England, France, and Spain, he served as Governor of Virginia, and served terms as Secretary of State and Secretary of War in addition to being a two term President.  Monroe played a vital role in negotiating the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 for which Thomas Jefferson is so well known. He is also famous for the "Monroe Doctrine" of 1823. This foreign policy dictate has served as a basis of American dealings with European countries for nearly two centuries.

In the years following Monroe's sale of the property it changed hands many times. Owner John Massey who purchased the property after the Civil War  expanded the house to it's current size. Ash Lawn-Highland was first opened to the public in 1931 by owners Jay Winston Johns and his wife Helen Lambert Johns. The Johns bequeathed the estate to The College of William and Mary in 1974. The college reopened the home in 1975. The college continues to research and restore the home. At over 500 acres the estate is a self sustaining project that is able to contribute revenue to the college. As a still working site this is a vibrant and active destination with everything from vegetable and flower gardens to being a supporter of the arts, to having a large number of special events open to the public, and the ability for the property to be rented out for weddings and other special occasions.

With it's great views and abundant history Ash Lawn-Highland is a nice place to visit that when we were there was empty when compared to the more famous and close by Monticello. If visiting I recommend the President's Pass. This pass is good for admission to not just Ash Lawn-Highland but also to Monticello and Michie Tavern. With this pass you will get a lot of history bang for your buck.

*The property was renamed Ash Lawn after Monroe passed away. Today, both names are associated with the property.
James Monroe burial site
located in Hollywood Cemetery,
Richmond, Virginia

Some of the gardens. You can just see the top
of outlying buildings on the property. In the background
notice the unobstructed mountain views.
Statue of James Monroe
in the garden area. The large
base is approximately 5 1/2 feet tall.
Bedroom inside main house

Outlying buildings including Overseers Cottage and
Slave Quarters

Be sure to visit the Ash Lawn-Highland Facebook page.

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